In a letter sent today (.pdf), seven mayors from around Washington State—including Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma and Mayor Mary Verner of Spokane—joined Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in asking that the adult-service website Backpage.com "take steps to prevent the use of Backpage.com for underage sex trafficking by requiring in-person verification of any prospective escort advertiser's ID, as well as proof of identity and age for anyone pictured in an escort ad."
Owned by Seattle Weekly parent company Village Voice Media, Backpage.com currently requires advertisers only check a box verifying that persons featured in escort ads are 18 years or older.
But Washington mayors are saying that bar is too low. They write that "our cities have continued to find advertisements on your site that reflect underage sex trafficking in recent weeks." In addition to the 22 cases of underage prostitution in Seattle linked to Backpage.com, they continue, "The Tacoma Police Department reports that they are currently working on 16 cases of juvenile prostitution involving 14 persons who had Backpage.com ads."
Backpage.com had previously agreed to several of McGinn's requests, including: hiring employees to comb the site for suspected cases of child prostitution, implementing online age-verification systems (similar to those used for selling alcohol and tobacco), allowing Seattle police to train Backpage.com employees by phone, and cooperating with law enforcement in investigations.
McGinn has said these concessions should supplement, not supplant, the call for in-person age verification. The mayors concur, adding, "We believe this practice is substantially more effective at rooting out underage sex trafficking."